Nearly half of Americans may have had their information stolen in the massive Equifax data breach revealed last week, and experts say freezing your credit is one line of defense. The credit-reporting company said hackers stole personal data — including Social Security numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth — from an estimated 143 million Americans.
Here’s how to know if you should freeze your credit, with steps on how to initiate a freeze if you decide to do so.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It prevents credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without your consent. It does not affect your credit score.
If I freeze my account, are there still some people who can see my credit report?
- You can see it. You’re still entitled to your free annual credit report.
- Your existing creditors and debt collectors acting on their behalf can see it.
- Government agencies may have access to it (think, subpoena or search warrant).
But what if I want to lease a car or rent an apartment?
If you institute a freeze and a creditor needs to access your credit report, you’ll need to temporarily lift it. When you initiate a freeze with each of the credit reporting companies — you have to do freezes with all of them — you’ll get a pin that corresponds with each freeze. When you want to temporarily lift any of them, you’ll give that pin back to the credit reporting company it corresponds to. If you’re trying to lease a car at Toyota, for example, you can ask Toyota which credit reporting company they’re going to use to access your report. That way you can just lift the freeze at that company.
How long does it take to lift a freeze?
No more than three business days, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
But what about when The Gap says I can save 10% on my purchase if I open a new credit card? Won’t it need to access my credit report right away?
Yes. With a freeze in place, you won’t be able to take advantage of those on-the-spot offers.
Does a credit freeze cost money?
Yes. Fees vary from state to state, and range from about $5 to $10. There are also fees to lift the freeze. You can see fees by state here. Equifax, however, has currently waived fees for initiating a credit freeze.
Click here to read more.
Source: USA Today